Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accident

Late last month, the Court of Appeals of the State of California heard and ruled on a case stemming from a man being hit by a car near a church parking lot. The man was attending a function at the church and was crossing a five-lane road to get to the church from an overflow parking lot. The plaintiff and his wife sued the church for several causes of action, including loss of consortium and negligence. They alleged that the church was negligent because it set up an overflow parking lot in a place where individuals needed to cross a busy road.

Busy RoadThe church moved for summary judgment, claiming that it did not owe the man a duty because it was not in control of the public road where the man was injured. However, the man appealed, arguing that the location of the injury is not dispositive and that the church did not meet its burden to show that no material fact existed regarding the duty it owed him. The appellate court reversed this finding. Specifically, the court took into consideration the location of the overflow lot, and it concluded that the church’s invitees who parked there were exposed to an unreasonable risk of injury. The court ultimately held that the church could be held liable for the man’s injuries.

New Mexico Premises Liability for Adjacent Properties

Generally, individuals who own or are in possession of property or land have a duty to keep their property or premises safe for visitors, guests, and occupiers of their land. If a person is injured on the land, the landowner may be held liable for the injuries the victim sustained. When the injury occurs on the land, it may be a bit easier for a plaintiff to pursue the claim, but even in those cases landowners will often try everything to thwart responsibility.

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Pedestrian accidents have the potential to be some of the most dangerous types of accidents, given the complete lack of protection a pedestrian has from an oncoming vehicle. While pedestrian accidents account for about 10% of the total number of auto accidents nationwide each year, they represent 15% of the total number of auto-accident-related fatalities. Thus, on average, a pedestrian accident results in more serious injuries than an accident with just motor vehicles involved.

crosswalk-1532024Pedestrian accident cases present a number of potential legal issues that may come up in a trial between the injured pedestrian and the motorist who struck them. One of the most common issues is whether the pedestrian was at fault in the accident. This situation may arise if a pedestrian is hit while crossing the street where no crosswalk is present.

New Mexico is a “pure comparative negligence” state, meaning that a plaintiff will still be entitled to recover damages for their injuries even if they are partly at fault. This applies no matter what percentage of fault the judge or jury assigns to the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff’s recovery amount will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

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In personal injury cases, many people think of their attorneys being most useful during examinations of witnesses and closing arguments. However, one very crucial part of a trial is in the crafting of the jury instructions. Jury instructions can drastically change the outcome of a case because jurors are laypeople who do not necessarily understand the law as it is explained to them by the judge. An attorney can make sure that fair and comprehensible jury instructions are given.

hammer-to-fall-1223606Jury instructions are rules that jurors are required to follow when they are deliberating on the outcome of a case. These instructions will determine how the jury decides who is liable and which types of damages should be awarded.

In most circumstances, jurors are the trier of fact, and they must be able to glean a clear picture of the case at hand by contemplating a significant amount of evidence. Almost all states, including New Mexico, have a model set of jury instructions that a judge should to convey to the jury. One common example of a jury instruction in the criminal context would be when a judge explains to the jury that the refusal of a defendant to testify does not indicate guilt. There are instructions specific to certain types of cases, and these instructions are very important when certain evidentiary issues are at stake because these instructions guide jurors to look at the evidence in a specific manner.

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Earlier this month, a woman was fatally injured while attempting to cross a New Mexico roadway. According to a New Mexico news report, the crash occurred near Kathryn Avenue and Louisiana Boulevard at around 10:15 p.m. The details of the accident are still being fully investigated. However, at the time of the initial report, emergency officials determined that one woman was killed at the scene of the accident when she was struck by a vehicle.

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Evidently, the woman was crossing the intersection when she was hit by a car. According to witnesses and local authorities, the driver of the car that hit the woman stayed at the scene of the accident and waited for emergency responders. An initial investigation does not indicate that the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, at this time, reports do not show that the driver was speeding. Police have not provided the public with any of the involved individuals’ names.

Plaintiff Fault and Liability Issues in New Mexico

Traffic accidents, such as the one above, are tragic for all of the parties involved. As is the case with most accidents, there are steps that both drivers and pedestrians need to take to ensure that these types of accidents do not occur. In the above case, reports indicate that a woman was killed after being hit by the driver. The fact that the woman was hit does not necessarily make her case ripe for a personal injury suit. It is important that in these cases the family of a victim understand that a defendant also has certain defenses that can change the amount a victim or their family can recover. In some cases, a defendant’s defense may allow them to evade liability altogether.

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A California Superior Court reversed a lower court’s decision in Castro vs. City of Thousand Oaks, in which the plaintiffs brought a suit against a city after they were hit in a crosswalk. According to the court’s written opinion, a woman, her two children, and two other children in her care were waiting at a crosswalk. The woman pressed the button that was supposed to alert drivers that a pedestrian was walking. After pressing the button, the woman saw a car stop, so she proceeded to cross while pushing a baby stroller with the other children in tow. As she was crossing, she was hit by a van, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, but not the defendant at issue in this opinion.

crosswalk-1532024.jpgEvidently, the driver of the van did not see the pedestrian crossing warning or the pedestrians. All of the pedestrians were hit and flew into the air and suffered serious injuries. The family brought a lawsuit, claiming that the city designed the crosswalk in a manner that made the plaintiffs believe that pressing the pedestrian crossing would allow them to safely cross. After the suit was brought against the City, it argued for summary judgment and attempted to show that they were protected from the suit by the theory of design immunity under the concept of sovereign immunity.

The higher court found the theory of design immunity is designed to prevent a jury from considering the same factors that the government agency approving the design already considered in determining the viability and safety of the project. In this case, however, the court found that the city never presented the design for safety approval, and as a result a jury should be able to determine whether there was a risk to the pedestrians.
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